Project Specs

Location: West Vancouver, British Columbia
Climate Zone: Cool-Temperate
Building Type: Single Family Residential
Project Phase: Certified
Certification Type: Passive House Classic
Year of Construction: 2022
Gross Floor Area (m2): 600
Treated Floor Area (m2): 511
PHPP Verification: Download

Project Description

The personal home of the architect and his family and the firm’s first foray in building to the extremely technical European Passive House Standard.

The initial property housed a tiny 1950’s house that sat squarely in its center, and was overwhelmed with decades of unchecked growth. It was both enchanting and overwhelming; a dark, secret garden, long neglected and left to its own devices. Despite these positive features, creeks are generally avoided because of the need to secure environmental permits. For architects, however, this affords an opportunity to negotiate a unique, non-conforming design for a creekside property- the District of West Vancouver offers relaxations in exchange for the preservation and rehabilitation of the riparian zone.

The design of the home began with an elongated form, running the length of the property and alongside the creek, allowing the creek’s lush growth to form a privacy barrier to the west. It was sited well away from the creek, permitting a wide riparian zone that would rehabilitate the creek border. As the design progressed, permissions to build included a requirement to remove all invasive species bordering the creek- including bamboo, English laurel and ivy, and Holly. These quick-adapting non-native species rapidly invade creek borders because their seeds and berries are carried easily downstream by the creek and by birds, choking out the native species.

The long design also ascends the hill with three distinct levels that access the home: the front entry, level with the street, the main level with access to the side yard, and the upper level with access to the backyard. The home connects to grade and serves as a part of the topography. Expansive, sliding glass doors connect the house to the landscape at all levels.

A parallel ambition for the house was to create a home that was energy neutral, and that would serve to demonstrate that climate consciousness was not at the expense of comfort or lifestyle. The Passive House Standard was introduced early in the design process, but because of the home’s complex exterior envelope, it was at first difficult to achieve a high-performance home that is also architecturally interesting. The extremely rigorous standard of a passive home- less than 15kWh per square meter annual energy for heat demand, as well as a maximum of 0.6 air changes / hr- represents an energy usage of less than 1/10 that of a code-built home. Ultimately, the home achieved Passive House certification, and has since become net-zero with the inclusion of 32 rooftop solar panels.

It is a remarkable achievement for a home with such a complex shape, with most of the glass facing west. The finishes in the house are robust and simple- polished concrete floors, oak millwork panels inside, and oak window frames. Bare, smooth concrete walls up to 2 stories high provide a vital textural juxtaposition with the wood and painted walls. Outside, the finishes are a combination of black Swiss pearl panels and dark gray stucco where insulation was required atop internalized concrete walls. The wood windows are finished with dark gray aluminum outside to increase durability and longevity. A wood burning stove provides for comfort and ambiance inside- a small human touch inside an otherwise simple modern interior. All appliances avoid entirely the use of fossil fuels – all electric, with electric ovens and induction cooktops.

Mechanical System

Ventilation: Zehnder, COMFO Air 550 Luxe
Heating/Cooling: Electric
Domestic Hot Water: Sanden C02 Heat Pump